The use of visual images in research is not new, but the way they are used continues to evolve and grow. Visual images help to generate research data and provide the tools through which data is analysed, and they are a medium by which research results can be clearly communicated.

Visual research methods (VRM) involve using imagery to prompt and encourage emotive responses. It can take many forms, including photographs, diagrams, rational maps, charts and graphical representations. They all contribute to a deeper understanding of insight, behaviour and decision-making processes.

VRM can explore beyond the behaviour we see on the surface or take for granted. They can uncover and truly understand the deep influences, motivations and triggers of behaviour and decisions.

The effective use of VRM helps researchers to deliver greater understanding to clients. The images selected when reporting and presenting results are effectively the windows to the insight gained from our research. The right images aren’t just pretty pictures – they provide an important mechanism for quickly understanding the key messages and emerging themes from research.

Enhancing and illuminating

Researchers have been using images for many years to enhance and illuminate findings, often using visual imagery during focus groups and interviews to elicit feedback and responses. But cultural change and technological innovation have contributed to new thinking on how we use VRM and our understanding of the benefits.

Research respondents are increasingly being given an opportunity to generate their own visual data, which can be incorporated into research findings to underpin insights that illustrate the customer experience, journey and future behaviour intent.